Listen With Your Eyes

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

It’s a rare thing to find a music performance that is as impressive to the eyes as it is to the ears. This Sunday however, the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur plays host to an event that excels in both arenas.

San Francisco-based music and performance group Mobius Operandi and its “sound sculpture” instruments are one of the most original and innovative acts you are ever likely to see.

Oliver Di Cicco is a Grammy award-winning audio engineer and musician. He owns and runs Mobius Music, a recording studio and production facility in San Francisco’s Noe Valley district. He also has been an inventor and builder of musical instruments for many years.

Wishing to depart from the increasing trend toward electronic music and synthesizers, Di Cicco sought to create instruments that demanded a real, physical interaction from the musician. The result is a collection of instruments quite unlike any others you have seen or heard.

Bearing exotic names like the Trylon and the Oove, the instruments are constructed from materials such as recycled steel, aluminum and wood, and would be equally at home in a gallery as works of art as on a stage.

When the members of Mobius Operandi play them, however, their impact becomes even more dramatic. Di Cicco, along with his bandmates Avi Rose, Pam Winfrey, Christie Winn and Jason Reiner, pluck, bow strum and pound the instruments to produce an incredible soundscape that is at once familiar and unknown.

The music of Mobius Operandi crosses many musical boundaries including pop, jazz, ambient, world beat and even country. Winfrey and Winn provide the vocals, their harmonies entwining with the sounds of the instruments until it is sometimes hard to discern where the voices end and the instruments begin. Described by one reviewer as “post-industrial folk,” the band’s songs and improvised passages are hypnotic and often spine-tingling.

Mobius Operandi was formed in 1991 and has performed both locally and internationally. In recent years, its multi-disciplinary performance pieces such as “Xibalba”(1997) and “Exit Vacaville” (1995-96) have been praised for their quality and innovation. SF Gate magazine described the latter as “one of the most enchantingly inventive, intriguingly multilayered, adventurously musical and lightly lugubrious new works in quite some time.”

First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, June 4, 2002

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